Hard To Predict When US Will Lift Travel Restrictions, Says Embassy Official

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Travel restrictions imposed by the United States on Indians to check the spread of novel coronavirus will remain in effect for now.

However, Indians could keep track of the European countries that were placed under the travel curbs before India for an indication of when the restrictions will be relaxed, suggested minister-counselor for consular affairs in US Embassy New Delhi, Don Heflin.

“It is hard to predict when the travel restrictions will be lifted. But one signal for India will be to look for the lifting of the restriction from Europe’s Schengen area, which was placed under travel curbs before India. Once those countries come out of restrictions, India can expect to see the lifting of the US travel ban,” Heflin said in an interaction with the Hindustan Times.

Schengen area in Europe refers to a group of 26 countries that have abolished all types of border control and operates under a common visa policy for international travel purposes. This region includes France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, etc.

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Currently, the US has prohibited travel from India for people who have lived in the country for the last 14 days. The only exceptions to this restriction are American citizens, students, and those who can prove their travel to the US is in the national interest.

Heflin mentioned that the US Embassy is trying to increase visa appointments and more will be opened in July. The minister-counselor stated that despite the second Covid-19 wave in India derailing the visa appointment process in India, 45,000 visa appointments have been opened. The Embassy is trying to reach a pre-Covid level in visa appointments, he said.

For students worried about missing classes in August, he stated that schools and colleges will allow them to come in late. “Schools will let you come late. Try to reach by August 25. If that is not possible for any reason, then contact the department concerned.”

Students with F-1 or M-1 visas, including those with Optical Practical Training approval, resuming their courses on or after August 1, 2021, will not need National Interest Exception (NIE) before traveling to the US from India within 30 days of their program resumption date, Heflin clarified.

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However, he warned that given the current visa situation and current Covid-19 restrictions, the Embassy cannot guarantee the return of students to the US following a short-term visit to India.

Meanwhile, F-2 visa holders, who are relatives of F-1 visa holders, need to get National Interest Exception approval before travel to the United States as the blanket waiver for F-1 visa holders does not apply to them, Heflin stated.

For lawful permanent residents (LPRs) with green cards, there is no change in the requirement that they maintain their permanent resident status. LPRs must return to the US within one year of departure to maintain their status.

(Source: Live Mint, not edited by travelobiz staff)

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